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Record of Youth: Episodes 13-14 Review

After the last two episodes, our Saya decided to take a break from Record of Youth to preserve her sanity. She can be currently found in greener and more nourishing pastures over at the reviews of 18 Again. But I clearly have less sense, so here we are. Volunteering to brave the last two weeks with me is another friend from dramaland, Sadhana. She can be found being funny and analytical about dramas on twitter @sadhanac.


Paroma: Hey Sadhana! Thank you for agreeing to watch and review these with me. You’re one of the few people I know who’re still somewhat enjoying RoY, so I knew I needed you to balance my feelings out a little at this point.

Sadhana: Hi! Thanks for having me here. The first few weeks, I was really really enamoured with the show. I was repeatedly hitting the refresh button on Netflix from 7:00 PM onward, waiting for the episode to be uploaded because there was something about the tone of the show and the premise that was really intriguing. Over the course though, while it was not actively terrible, it lost some (okay maybe a LOT) of that charm it had initially and I didn’t know what the show was trying to be and do. I was still interested enough to see how the ominous future narration we hear from the leads in one episode tied up with the present though.

Paroma: That was such a cool technique to keep us hooked. Especially because they did this neat perspective switch when the show went over the same scene again in the next episode, revealing a lot more information than we got in the last. The characters felt more real, with interesting motivations. But then, at some point, this flash-forward/flash-back trick started to be overused, and instead of just giving us different ways to look at a confrontation, the show started skipping massive amounts of time. That’s when my interest started to wane.

Sadhana: Yeah, and if they had to do it multiple times in order for us to be more empathetic towards their situations, that’s a massive gap in the writing because we don’t need all these gimmicks 😐

When this drama started, I really loved how it set up the two characters with the same dream and the vastly different burdens and roads they each walk even if their destination was the same. How would Hae-hyo achieve his dream? How would Hye-joon? What would their friendship be like then and how would the relationship with others around them change?

We’re seeing all of this but not in a way that holds it together, if that makes sense. There are all these little moments that are great but there’s no glue holding them together. Because we don’t spend enough time that’s effective, showing us what’s going on behind the surface.

Paroma: Exactly. We’ve spent hours with these characters, but I don’t feel like I know them—especially Jung-ha and Hye-joon.

But to finally get to this week – it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. I would even say it was somewhat fun to watch in parts because we got to see a lot more of the other characters and their struggles outside Hye-joon’s ambit. For instance, I was glad that Hae-hyo finally found out about his fake followers (though what took the boy THIS long is a mystery). I was also glad to see Grandpa and Dad starting to mend their relationship.

Sadhana: Yeah, this week had a lot of great moments for me, which I’m sure we’ll get to in a bit, but to start off from where last week’s episode left off – I really, really disliked the almost malicious preview! For so many weeks the previews made it seem like there was going to be all this contrived drama (Hae-hyo and Jung-ha last week) and then… it turns out to be absolutely nothing. I understand you have to have some mystery and doing this once or twice, but every week? No. The only other show I remember being this annoyed with the previews of was One Spring Night, where the episodes themselves turned out to be fine, but the previews were another matter. I feel like the experience of the show would have been different if we had different previews. Maybe that’s exaggerated, but judging from last week’s preview and this week’s episodes it sure felt that way.

Paroma: Agreed. The previews have a wildly different mood than the actual drama which, I think, works against the drama’s ability to keep viewers loyal. You get us all worked up expecting something horrible and then the drama just keeps on keeping on, implying a—ha! Psych!

And we know the previous week’s preview (Episode 12) caused a fall in viewership for the next episode. (Not to mention the glaring absence of a Saya in this review. 😄)

Let’s talk about our main couple here for a moment. It feels like the writer wants us to see two young people who’re trying the best they can in their relationship, but drama wants us to see leads whose relationship just can’t work. The text tells us that this is life, but you’ll get through together if you’re understanding and considerate towards each other. The direction says that a relationship where you have to be patient and can’t be constantly together has to lead to a break up. These two aspects of the show feel utterly contrary to me. And so, when Jung-ha tells Hye-joon that they should break up after some ace-level interfering by Evil Reporter Lady, I just want to shake them both till they loose that quiet, long-suffering expression on their faces and just talk. As Hye-joon tells Jung-ha at one point, confrontations aren’t a bad thing. So, fight, godsdammit.

Sadhana: I feel like a lot of that is because we don’t really know who Jung-ha is, not really. If they’d spent some more time exploring her character, it’s really believable for me that for someone who’s never dated before, she thinks she wants a certain kind of relationship and wants to be a certain kind of person in a relationship (based on her past traumas and whatnot) but what she actually wants from a relationship and the kind of person she is are different. It can happen! But we don’t see this conflict at all.

Paroma: Right! There was actually a lot of character material they could have explored there! Instead I feel like they keep telling us that Jung-ha feels this or thinks that, but we don’t really see it in the story. If she’s feeling conflict between how she had imagined her relationship would be and how it actually is, we don’t really see it. We just speculate cause she’s sad. However, her current sadness seems unrelated to her belief system. It just seems to be caused by lack of support and time in her relationship. Which would be FINE! Except that it’s disconnected from her character. If you had asked me on Episode 4 what kind of girlfriend Jung-ha would make Hye-joon, I would have said, a brutally honest and realistic one, who would talk to him about her feelings, and if she felt they were unhappy, she would say it. Instead, we get a lot of sound, and no conversation that actually drives their conflict forward.

Sadhana: Yeah, totally—even when Hye-joon picks up on her avoidance of conflict it just gets left there unresolved leaving everyone hanging… which has been a consistent thing in the show. It would have been great to see him push her to open up but instead given her character setup, Hye-joon would never need to do this, if she would have just spoken up.

Paroma: But you know what’s the oddest thing about this show? There is a scene on the playground when Hae-hyo just wants Jung-ha to sit quietly beside him without telling her what the problem is. After half an hour, Jung-ha tells him that she’s sleepy and wants to go home, and that it’s boring to sit there not talking for so long. Hae-hyo gets mad at her, and then on a dime, she turns and smiles at him and asks if he’s less sad now that he’s mad at her.

They… keep doi